At a recent Continuing Legal Education seminar on trial strategy, I was asked a question I’ve heard several times in the past. The attorney wanted to know what tips I could offer for getting jurors to like the trial attorneys.
In mock trials and post-trial juror interviews, jurors consistently praise the same attorney characteristics. For example, jurors tend to appreciate brevity in the attorney’s presentations, professionalism and a calm demeanor in court, and clarity of purpose in the attorney’s questioning of the witnesses. In other words, jurors usually like attorneys who get to the point quickly and clearly and with a minimum of drama. On the other hand, jurors are often critical of attorneys who are overly-aggressive or emotional during their cross-examination of the witnesses, attorneys who are too repetitive or long-winded, and attorneys whose presentations seem irrelevant or that are not clearly linked to the case story that the attorney is trying to tell.
However, the question about how to get jurors to like attorneys is also slightly misguided. The primary goal in court is not to get jurors to like you; the goal is to get jurors to agree with you. And we have found that jurors do not necessary agree with the attorneys they like, but they almost always like the attorneys they agree with. So if attorneys really want jurors to like them, the best way to achieve that is to persuade jurors to agree with them that their side deserves to win and the other side deserves to lose. In other words, getting jurors to like you should be seen as a by-product of persuading jurors that you are right, rather than as a means of persuading them that you are right.